Who would have ever thought that dragons would point the way forward for a fourth-generation hotelier’s journey?
When Shintaro Sasaki hiked up a hill while visiting the island of
Naoshima, he beheld a magnificent sight — clouds of mist looming over a
lake that seemed to take the form of two flying dragons. Sasaki took it
as a divine sign that this island is where his family legacy will
continue to unfold.
That illusion gave rise to Roka, a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan)
accentuated with the luxuries of the modern world, which opened in
Naoshima in April this year.
Just as Naoshima is an island insteeped with art and famously known
to house Yayoi Kusama’s yellow polka-dotted pumpkin sculpture for three
decades, Roka is a luxury Japanese inn that embraces the island’s rich
The ryokan doubles up as an art gallery and an incubator for emerging
artists, alongside serving as a nightlife venue for art lovers and
collectors to come together. Some of these artists’ pieces have also
been selected to be featured around the hotel, which are available for
guests to purchase.
Suites feature traditional Japanese furnishings mixed with modern features.
Beyond taking inspiration from dragons in the mist to showcasing
unseen talents on this secluded island, Sasaki says that his vision for
Roka is to “create a new world where guests can experience renewal and
rediscover the simple joys of life, free from the stresses and burdens
of their personal lives”.
Roka houses just 11 guest residences featuring three types of suites.
The most expansive and luxurious of them all is the Roka Suite which
encompasses 106sqm of space featuring a kitchen, a bar, a 12-mat living
room, a dining area for six, and a semi-outdoor bathing area equipped
with a large cypress bathtub spanning 2.5sqm.
A stay at Roka comes inclusive of lunch and dinner at the in-house
restaurant EN. The six-person culinary team presides over the curation
of modern kaiseki and multi-course feasts with seasonal ingredients
procured fresh from around the region daily, such as seafood from the
Seto Inland Sea, Nagi Wagyu Beef from northern Okayama and olive Wagyu
from Shodoshima. The restaurant can also prepare Japanese-style
breakfasts for guests.
Dishes prepared at Roka’s restaurants and café comprise 90% of locally sourced ingredients from the Kagawa Prefecture, right down to the miso, salt, and soy sauce.
To unwind, guests can head to Roka’s café-bar Moya that serves up
signature house-made herbal infusions targeting what guests need —
energising, relaxing, beautifying, or detoxifying. Moya serves lunch and
after-dinner drinks late into the night, in fact, it is the only venue
on the island that stays open past 9pm.
Other spaces that guests can explore within Roka include the
Muryoraku-an Firepit for guests to socialise around the warm fire
outdoors at night with others and the Sanshi-suimei Garden featuring a
diversity of botanicals including edible plants and fruits.
Guests can enjoy the sight of seasonal fresh flowers adorning the
spaces within the ryokan every day, which serves as an homage to the
original Kifu no Sato ryokan that Sasaki’s ancestors started centuries
ago where Sasaki’s great-great grandfather would personally practice the
art of Japanese flower arrangement (ikebana) daily to further enhance
the atmosphere of the place.
The fire pit is situated between the guest suites and the restaurant offering an ideal place for visitors, residents, and artists to relax together.
As a well-regarded member under The Ryokan Collection, the world’s
first consortium of luxury ryokans, Hiroki Fukunaga, founder and CEO of
The Ryokan Collection believes that Roka will become a new icon of
Naoshima with the large number of international enquiries and new
bookings that Roka has been receiving despite Japan’s relatively
“With its characteristic aspect, Roka will keep working on featuring
up-and-coming artists, artworks that are not yet on the market will be
exhibited in all guestrooms, restaurants, lounges, etc., providing art
lovers worldwide with "a ryokan to meet unseen talents".